Labor Shortage Met with More Automation
By Oregon Family Farm Association
Hood River, OR- Pears have typically been viewed as difficult to sort en masse due to their oblong shape. Unlike many nuts and fruits, their sensitivity and inability to roll properly have built a perception that grading and processing pears must be done by hand.
Diamond Fruit Growers, an Ag co-op in Hood River that typically packs around 2 million boxes of pears annually, has invested heavily in automation.
According to an in-depth Capitol Press article, 700 bins can now be sorted with greater consistency per shift, compared to 400. The machines were installed in 2018.
In January 2023, an advanced potato sorter was rolled out by Key Technologies, which manufactures in Washington and Oregon.
A variety factors have led to a reduced workforce. In 2021, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 4002: Ag Overtime Bill. Mandates like these have squeezed growers and processors to look toward greater mechanization.
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